Legacy Spotlight: Terry Kelly (PART 2)

By June Converse.

Our last blog introduced you to Terry Kelly and while I’m sure I did not do him justice, I hope you were able to sense the sincerity in his heart, his belief in the individual’s ability (and responsibility) to take the blinders off – to stop being Mind Blind. As he told me, “Being blind in your mind is more debilitating than being blind in your eyes.” (If you missed part 1 of my interview, click here.)

 

Self-Advocacy

As you can imagine, Terry is a strong proponent of self-advocacy. He speaks of the Dream Adjustment – the truth that we can do anything we want if we are open to adjusting the dream and, when necessary, to finding creative ways to make it happen. Maybe that’s a beep in the ball or a tin can with marbles. Maybe it’s a conversation with a coach, a parent, a teacher, where you explain what you want, why you want it and work together to make it happen. The point is dreams can be realized when you take responsibility for being creative, having the conversation and making the adjustments. No one, including Terry, says it’s that easy.

“They have to learn to represent themselves and to teach their teachers what they can do.”

The Habits of a Dreamer: Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

Terry is one of those people willing to show his true self and I believe it’s that authenticity that makes him a whirlwind of positivity and enthusiasm and encouragement mixed with a touch of a “stop whining and just do it” attitude. He doesn’t wake up every morning, bounce out of bed and see only sunshine and smell only roses. No, instead, he does what we should all do – he looks inside …

“I deliberately stopped talking in schools for two or three months because I felt I was not being honest with myself and to the students. I had to get myself straightened out. That was over twenty years ago, and I still practice what I learned then: I remind myself that I am kind. I am loved. I repeat these affirmations every day. It is how I’m supposed to live my life. I’ve had to remind myself sometimes of the gifts I do have.”

 

“I remind myself that I am kind. I am loved. I repeat these affirmations every day. It is how I’m supposed to live my life.”

 

We are responsible for our dreams and our habits. The only way to achieve those dreams is to continually “self-evaluate” and to step out of your comfort zone on a “regular basis”. 

 

“Never judge a person by the mountain they choose to climb because my comfort zone is different than yours or my neighbor’s. Whatever that mountain is – climb it. Get out of that comfort zone. That’s where the mountains are.”

 

Interestingly, Terry mentioned forgiveness when he talked of comfort zones. “I’ve made so many apologies in my life that apologizing or asking for forgiveness is no big deal. But I know for some people that’s a mammoth thing. I’ve heard people say, ‘No way, I’m not apologizing. He did that to me and I’m not going to forgive.’ I think we should learn to consider forgiveness.”

Changing What It Means to be Blind: “The Power of the Dream”

“We have to learn to represent ourselves. To show and teach what we can do.” 

For Terry, advocating for self is a critical life skill and is required if we want to achieve anything. For Terry advocating goes well beyond “self”. All over the world, the visually impaired represent each other. Whenever Terry shows up in the world, confident and capable and willing to leave his comfort zone, he is showing the world what every blind or visually impaired person can do, can believe, can achieve.  “We represent each other. I have a responsibility to you. You have a responsibility to me.”

“We represent each other. I have a responsibility to you. You have a responsibility to me.”

“It’s up to us to CHANGE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLIND.”

A Theme Song Changes Direction

This message really hit home when he was asked to write a theme song for the General Assembly of the World Blind Union meeting in Melbourne, Australia. He began work on the song before he left Canada, and it was mostly written when he landed in Australia. “I thought it was going to be about physical blindness, but I got down there and I heard all these people talking about how they were oppressed and treated differently. This was happening all over the world.”

 

“Babies are being taken away from their mothers because they are blind.”

 

At the delegation we were all allowed to vote and for many it was the first time they had ever been allowed to represent themselves. In some cultures, people who are blind are not allowed to vote because they are not believed capable of representing themselves; they are seen as disabled. Watching people celebrate this opportunity to vote changed Terry. “That is when the song changed direction.”

“I realized at that point that yes, this is about physical blindness and how people judge you based on your disability. People are judged based on how they see us – see us in their mind. In the world, people are not educated as to what a blind person can do, what the possibilities are. When you listen, when you read the lyrics, it’s about that. It’s about how we see ourselves. I don’t mention physical blindness at all.”

“It’s our responsibility to educate others by how we see ourselves and how we act and how we live our lives. It is up to us to change what it means to be blind. That is what this song is really about.”

You represent me. I represent you. Together and individually, WE EMBODY THE DREAM.

That is “THE POWER OF THE DREAM”

 

Look, see there, movement. 

Everywhere improvement. 

150 million tongues, one clear voice!

From the land down under. 

A song the sound of thunder. 

Singing the dream to opening ears 

All over the world! 

There’s a buzz in the air, 

And the people from far and near 

Have made a choice; the choice is clear! 

 

Changing what it means to be blind. 

Step by step one day at a time. 

Still much to do but it shall be 

That the sighted eyes of the world 

Will be able to see. 

And there will be changes. 

The power of the dream. 

Due diligence by you and me. 

Changing what it means to be blind.  . . . 

 

Follow this link to hear the song in its entirety and to read the full lyrics

What’s Next for Terry

As hard as the COVID situation was, the lockdown gave Terry the time to work on a dream he’s had for a long time. He is currently building a studio in his home, and he hopes to interview song writers, singers and other artists about their process, their talent, their inspiration. Specifically, he’d like to have the song writer and the artist make connections with each other and with his audience. 

Terry is often asked when he is going to stop – climbing mountains, writing songs, inspiring others – his answer is as simple as it is empowering …

“I’ll stop when I drop.”

 

To see more of Terry, his music and his message, check out his YouTube channel: (1) Terry Kelly – YouTube

~submitted by June Converse

 

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